As it has for generations, the Bethel College Concert Choir fosters a deep sense of connectedness among singers and audiences through excellent performances of choral music.
In 2010, the Concert Choir received an Emmy Award for their contribution to the soundtrack of the documentary film Through the Desert Goes Our Journey. In 2014, the choir was selected to perform for the Southwest Regional Convention of the American Choral Directors Association.
Locally, the choir has been featured multiple times in performances at the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) annual convention, most recently in 2019, and as guest performers with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. They have collaborated with the WSO and its music director, Bethel music alumnus Daniel Hege, in performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection," Orff's Carmina Burana and Beethoven's Mass in C.
Its choral excellence has earned the choir invitations to sing in the Berliner Dome; the Stockholm Cathedral; St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati; the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis; and New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
Each spring, the Concert Choir joins with all collegiate singers, members of the Newton Community Chorus and the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra in the performance of choral masterworks.
The Bethel College Concert Choir has been the core of the music department since Walter Hohmann founded the ensemble in 1932 as the Bethel College A Cappella Choir. Though oratorio choruses, glee clubs and other music organizations had been active since the 1890s, Hohmann’s A Cappella Choir was distinct from its predecessors. The choir traveled out-of-state to perform and generally sang unaccompanied sacred repertoire from memory. The choir’s first extended concert tour was a six-week tour through the western United States and Canada in the summer of 1935.
Renamed the Mennonite Singers in the 1950s, the choir toured Europe for the first time in the summer of 1952 and again in 1955 and 1958, traveling by boat each time. During this decade, recordings of the Mennonite Singers were broadcast on a weekly radio program out of Wichita.
James Bixel succeeded Hohmann in 1958-59, Gordon Corwin in 1959-60, and Walter Jost in fall 1960. The choir continued as a mixed touring ensemble of 40-60 members, though Bixel changed the name from the Mennonite Singers to the Bethel College Choir. Marles Preheim joined the Bethel College music faculty in the fall of 1977 and alternated leadership of the College Choir with Jost nearly every year until Jost’s retirement in 1992. Preheim changed the name of the Bethel College Choir to the Bethel College Concert Choir in the early 1980s. William Eash succeeded Preheim as director in 1999. As it has for generations, the Bethel College Concert Choir fosters a deep sense of connectedness among singers and audiences through excellent performances of choral music.
Today, the Bethel College Concert Choir represents the college through a vigorous concert schedule that includes campus performances, concerts in local venues and an annual multi-state tour. Keeping with a tradition established in 1978, the Bethel College Concert Choir also tours internationally (every four years; most recently in 2018, next scheduled for 2022) and has sung concerts in Canada, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Bosnia, France, Belgium, Sweden and Norway, with television performances in Bosnia and Poland.
For more information about the Bethel College Concert Choir, contact William Eash, director of choral activities.